Former Highgate School student plans expedition to mountains in Central Asia that have been walked on by fewer people than the moon
PUBLISHED: 13:46 22 May 2013 | UPDATED: 14:50 22 May 2013
A 20-year-old man from Highgate is embarking on a mountaineering expedition that will take him to peaks that have been walked on by fewer people than the moon
Max Jamilly, who attended Highgate School, and four of his friends have planned the 6,000 mile overland trip to the dizzying reaches of Tajikistan in Central Asia, in an attempt to summit mountains that are completely unexplored.
Armed only with military maps left over from the Soviets before the Afghan War, and some satellite images that barely make glaciers visible, they will attempt to climb several 17,000 feet peaks – some of which have not even been named.
Mr Jamilly says the idea came to them in a “moment of madness,” but the five boys have been training, learning wilderness medicine and pouring over military maps, for months – and they are confident that they will succeed. “We’ve done a hell of a lot of training together,” said Mr Jamilly who grew up in North Grove.
“I would definitely trust any of the other guys on the end of the rope for me, which is what it comes down to.”
For their families on the other hand, it will be difficult not to worry.
“I wouldn’t say they think it’s the best idea in the world,” said Mr Jamilly.
“No-one does, but they’ve all been incredibly supportive which is brilliant.”
Mr Jamilly, Leo Hortsmeyer, 24, Straun Chisolm, 21, Calum Nicoll, 21 and Theo Scott, 21 met at the climbing club at Cambridge University, and they all have extensive mountaineering experience – from the icy clasps of the Alps, which is a classic training ground for British climbers, to the craggy outcrops of freezing Scotland.
But in Tajikistan they have no idea what to expect.
“It’s not mapped at all, and as far as we know, there have been no expeditions to some of the mountains,” said Mr Jamilly.
“The Himalayas are not far from Central Asia, but comparatively, it’s so much easier to go somewhere like Nepal than Central Asia where there are no weather services, there’s no climbing support, no infrastructure, no roads.” He added: “The best maps we have are from the Soviets – you can get quite a lot of topographical detail from those – mountains and valleys – and then satellite imagery from google earth, which will help us find out about the best places to camp, and a bit about the glaciers – but a lot will be decided on the ground when we get there.”
On their daredevil trip, the boys will need 600 grams of food each, every day, all of which they will carry on their backs, from the moment they leave their car which will be parked a five day walk away from base camp.
“That adds up to a lot of food for five people,” said Mr Jamilly.
“Mainly chocolate and cheese, but that’s what you need when you’re up there.”
Their acclimatisation at base camp will take a few weeks – short hikes, to get used to the thin air, and the biting temperatures, which will plummet at night and will be stirred up by violent weather.
There won’t be much to do – “I think there will be a lot of cards,” said Mr Jamilly.
“And reading a lot of trashy books.
“But I’d rather be bored in the mountains than in my living room at home.”
He added: “I have some nerves, but that’s the appeal of where we’re doing – it’s completely unexplored.
“As a city boy who always lived in Highgate, I really like the openness of the mountains.
“They’re empty – no people, no buses, no houses.
“It’s like they haven’t changed in tens of thousands of years, which is really special.
“And when you get to the top – the mixture of mental hard work and physical work and working as a team, well you’ve achieved something quite spectacular – and the views are amazing.”